I have always seen comparison in similitude with a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ – a game which is frustrating, takes patience and there is no doubt that it takes a long time to win. With ‘snakes and ladders’ it seems that the second we climb the ladder, pushing us closer to the win, we either fall down the snake back to where we started or another player climbs a larger ladder and overtakes you. The journey to medicine is a lot like this – we feel as though we have achieved something, pushing us closer to securing a place at medical school but then something else makes us feel as though we’ve been set back, or this idea that someone else always seems to be ahead of you.
From the moment I knew I wanted to pursue medicine I have felt this overwhelming sense of comparison to other prospective medical students and current medical students. I have spent countless periods of time thinking that I am not smart enough or I do not have as excellent extracurriculars or work experience that others do. Personally, I believe this viscous cycle, myself and many other pre-meds struggle with too, originates from the fatal flaw in our education system – this ingrained idea that we have to be straight A* students who play on county sports team and have observed life changing surgeries to be a successful applicant.
We are so quick to compare ourselves that we forget a fundamental piece of information – medical schools aren’t looking for a carbon copy individual, they want people who stand out! Our healthcare system would undoubtedly collapse if every single healthcare professional in the field was the same, it just wouldn’t work. Medical schools are looking for level-headed individuals with creative problem solving abilities to lead emergency departments, gentle and patient individuals to care for geriatric patients, those with outstanding organisation and communication for surgery, excellent team-workers with high adaptiveness for paediatrics. So why do we continually compare our skillset to someone else’s? It is our differences that are what will make us incredible doctors.
This idea of feeling as though someone is always climbing a longer ladder to us, for me, has stemmed from my social media feeds being bombarded with paid medical opportunists. I’m sure all prospective medical students can agree that our advertisements are filled by paid work experience placements, personal statement reviews, UCAT/BMAT courses and countless other corporate opportunists with selling points of “guaranteed medical school place”, “successful oxbridge applications” and “guaranteed top UCAT score”. Having seen these at the start of my pre-med journey, I felt crushed. I felt as though I had fallen down behind my peers, fallen down the a snake in the game. I couldn’t afford these opportunities, but living in a rural part of Northern England it seemed as though I didn’t have any other opportunities available and that everyone else around me could afford these and was benefiting so much from them.
It’s only been recently that I’ve come to realise that comparison is so understandable and normal when applying for medicine, it is after all, one of the most competitive courses! We shouldn’t, however, allow our comparison to cripple us, we should let it drive us to work harder and develop our skills in ways that are altruistically, not economically, driven. Alongside this, I’ve also come to realise that we get so caught up in securing our place at medical school that we fail to recognise when companies and corporations are scamming us. We don’t need to pay for opportunities to “get us into medical school” because realistically, they won’t! Nothing will get us into medical school but our own hard work, determination and our genuine passion for medicine.
Every single one of our stories and journeys to medicine are so unique and different, they are all worthy of telling, they are not worthy of comparison! We all finish the game of snakes and ladders, no matter how long it takes us.
This great piece was wrote by Meaghan Lloyd and reviewed before publish.